Victim Blaming and the Lies they tell you

The first time my ex was arrested for assaulting me was July 2009.  He was actually arrested for assaulting myself and our toddler son.  Like so many other abusive relationships the abuse had been escalating prior to his arrest.  He was relentless at screaming at me, at abusing our young son and physically abusing me.  Our oldest daughter, who was 7, was telling me that she wished we would get divorced, that she was scared of her dad and wanted all of this to stop.  I wanted it to stop too. I would ask him to stop, I would raise my voice, I would stand in between his fist and our son, I kicked him out and he would just come back.  It was horrible and there seemed to be nothing within my power that could make it all stop.  I felt helpless.

So one evening I dropped our daughters off at a Vacation Bible School and I pushed my stroller, with my young son in it, and walked into our local RCMP detachment.  I was met by some officers.  I looked at them point blank and said, “You need to help me. My husband is hurting us.” I was taken into a back room and just started talking.  I did not know what they needed to know or what I was supposed to say I just started letting it all out, telling the officer every detail of what had been happening at home.

The officer spoke to a Prosecutor and the Prosecutor agreed that an arrest could be made.  I was told to get my daughters and not go home until one of the officers called me to say that the arrest was made and it was safe to go home.

I was shaking as I left.  I could not believe I had told everything I had told.  Perhaps now the kids and I would find peace. I went and picked my daughters up at the Vacation Bible School and then wondered, “Where do I go?” I had no idea.  For the longest time I sat with the kids on that church lawn not knowing what to do next.  I could not go to my in laws, I did not have a close friend in town to call on, where could I go? I called a friend who lived in the next town over. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile but hopefully she would be ok with us coming to her home.  Thankfully she was and soon I was sharing my story with her and her husband in their living room waiting for the RCMP to call.

It was not until 10:00pm that I received a call that it was ok to come home.  I was told that he had been arrested, then allowed to leave in our van and that his plan was to go to his moms in a city nearby.  I breathed a sigh a relief.  It was over.

Or so I thought.  It really was not over.  I came home to a ransacked house.  There were things all over the floor, it was obvious to me that my ex had not gone easily. My friends husband made sure the house was secure and I put my kids to bed.  After my friend and her husband left I sat on my couch for hours in silence, just staring at the wall.  I was literally stunned. The silence stunned me.  I was so used to his endless screaming I almost did not know what to do in the silence.  So I just sat there for hours doing nothing.  At about 2:00am I wrote an email to my family telling them of the abuse and the arrest.  I had kept them in the dark for over a decade.  I then finally went to bed.

In the weeks that followed the victim blaming comments started to come my way;

“YOU got him arrested!”

“I know he hurt you but did YOU have to involve the Police? They slammed him into walls and really hurt him!”

“He is so sad.  YOU have to forgive him.”

You. You. You. YOU!

But it wasn’t me. It was HIM.

I had a Lawyer tell me, “They will blame you. A lot. But you did not get him arrested.  His actions did and in Canada the Crown charges him not you. You did the right thing.”

I knew in my heart that I had done the right thing.  I knew that I had begged him to stop so many times.  I started to tell those who blamed me;

“I didn’t get him arrested.  All I did was tell them what he was doing. The RCMP and the Crown decided that was he was doing was illegal.  If it was not illegal they would not have arrested him.”

I don’t know if my words ever resonated with these people.  I think they still blame me and when I saw my ex again he definitely blamed me.

Victim blaming happens by the perpetrator to deflect what they have done so that they do have to take responsibility.  It is done by their supporters so that they too can deflect and not admit what really happened. For some people it is easier to keep lying to themselves then face the truth. Unfortunately this behaviour only continues to abuse the victim.

If you have been subject to victim blaming I want you to know that what happened is NOT your fault.  It is the abusers.  It is highly unlikely that they will ever take responsibility for what they have done. To take responsibility they have to want to change and abusers like the power abusing others gives. In their head, why would they change? I want you to know that no matter what those blamers say you are not what they say.  You are not the nasty names they may call you. They may try to say that it is your fault too, that it takes “two to tango” in a relationship for there to be problems. The thing is that when it is an abusive relationship you are not having regular arguments.  It is about one person wanting power and control over another and they are achieving that through fear and intimidation.  They are overpowering you, not arguing about what is for supper that night. What they are doing is completely and absolutely wrong and illegal. The abuser is the one who needs to take responsibility not you. Period.

The victim blaming that happened after my relationship continues to this day, but I have walked away from it.  I no longer care what any of his supporters say about me because I know it is not the truth and I am confident in who I am and that I did nothing to deserve the abuse that happened to me. It is a freeing feeling to walk away from it all.  I encourage you to do the same if you are caught in it.

Peace, untitled.png 567

Janet

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  Like a how a fire drill helps you safely escape a fire, a Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link;  http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/safety-planning/  Scroll down the page it opens to download it for free.

Are you a Survivor needing  support? You can sign up for a Mentor, someone who has been there, and receive free support and guidance all via email, at :http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

I love writing for free, but with three kids it can get tight.  So if you like what I write feel free to make a donation towards my work.  Please click on this Paypal link; PayPal.Me/JanetBrownlee to make your donation. Thanks!

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Is that child just “acting up” or is it trauma?

I believe that every child is a gift. I especially agree with my own three children. They have been an amazing blessing in my life and I am so proud to be their mum.

Nothing in life really prepares you to be a parent. Sure when you are pregnant you can read all of the parenting help books or talk to health nurses, but really you are never quite prepared when that little baby is placed in your arms. Suddenly you realize that no one, but you is responsible for this living and breathing little person. It’s life depends on you. Wow what a profound moment that was for me.

As a parent I have always wanted the best for my children. It is hard when life and what you want doesn’t always match up. My oldest was born in 2001 and for the first 9 years of her life we lived with her father. Unfortunately for her, her younger siblings and myself their father was an abuser. Abuse of many forms was prevalent throughout our house and this affected each of my children in different ways. We have dealt with PTSD diagnoses, OCD tendencies, nightmares, wetting of beds, soiling of pants, disassociation, violent outbursts and yes some substance abuse. None of this is what I wanted for them. It has been heartbreaking as a mum to watch my children struggle and it has been debilitating to them at various times of their life. This is definitely not the life I wanted for my children.

Despite all of the trials my children and I have always been a team. I have let them know from the moment that they were born that I will always be there for them. With every cry in the night  to cheering them on at their band concert at school I have been there.  I have worked hard to be their safety and their constant despite the turbulent beginning years of their life. When my ex and I finally separated, my kids and I shared my Queen size bed for months. We all had our spot on the bed and perhaps it was not the most comfortable of sleeps as we all crammed in, but we were together, we were safe and that was the most important thing.

Kids experience trauma in different ways than an adult. For one their brains are still developing so trauma affects their brain development. Children also have different ways then adults on how they express their trauma. If you have an infant, toddler or a preschooler you may observe;

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Disturbances in feeding
  • Feelings of helplessness and passivity
  • Generalized fearfulness
  • Specific new fears
  • Loss of or regression in recently acquired skills like walking, talking or potty training.
  • Clinginess and separation anxiety.
  • Inhibited play
  • Thinking or talking about the event
  • Upset at reminders or avoiding reminders of the event.
  • Irritability
  • Agressiveness
  • Scanning for danger
  • Easily startled

If you have school age children you might observe;

  • Posttraumatic play. This kind of play is a repetitive reenactment of the event
  • Thinking and talking about trauma outside of play
  • Being upset about reminders of the event.
  • Specific fears triggered by the event
  • Fantasies of revenge
  • Feeling guilty about the trauma and feeling responsible for it
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty learning
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms
  • Concerns about theirs and others safety
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawn behaviour

If you have an adolescent you might observe;

  • Detachment, shame guilt
  • Self conscious about their fears and intense feelings
  • Abrupt shifts in relationships
  • Desire for and plans to take revenge
  • Premature entrance into adulthood or reluctant to leave home
  • Being upset at reminders of the trauma and doing their best to avoid reminders
  • Coping behaviours that may include self-endangering behaviours such as substance abuse and/or cutting

I am sure you have observed these behaviours in children or teens. They may not be your own children and often when this behaviour is observed most being ask “what is wrong with that kid?” and the school system usually wants to label the child with a learning disability, but that is not helping the child. This is not a case of “what is wrong with that child?” it is a case of “what happened to that child?” We need to start changing the conversation around “troubled” children and start looking at what has happened in the past. What are they trying to tell us?

There are ways to help a traumatized child. For our infants, toddlers and preschoolers it is important for parents to stay close to their child. Kids of all ages need security, especially after trauma, but for our younger ones they will struggle to verbalize their trauma (if they can at all) and what they need. So staying close to your child gives them a sense of security. Help the child anticipate what will happen, give them choices. When trauma happens our sense of control in our life is rocked to the core. It is important to give that feeling of control back to the child. I will give you an example. Let’s say you ask your youngster to put away their toys and they refuse too. Instead of getting angry at them it is important to offer them a choice like, “Sarah you can put your toys away or you can go to your room for a time out.” This gives the child a choice without anger or a threat and they are then in control of what happens next. It is also important to name the child’s feelings and letting them know that feelings are good to feel. It is also important to give them reassurance as they need it and expect to do this over and over again. It is normal for children to need repeated reassurance.

For a school aged child it is important to listen to a child’s concerns and to answer questions truthfully and simply. Also let your child be close to you if they need you. They too will look to you for security. Reassure the child that they are safe. Also name their feelings and encourage them to express them through play or art. It is also important to help the child anticipate what will happen next in their life to help them feel in control and to give them choices. Like our younger children expect to do these things over and over.

For teens it is very similar to the younger children. With teen you will also want to give them choices, be close to you if they need to, encourage them to express their feelings through journaling, art, dance or writing poems and songs. Help them anticipate what happens next and provide an environment where your teen can talk about their concerns. Also expect to do these things over and over. Healing from trauma takes time, patience and hard work. There is no straight time line for healing trauma so basically it will take as long as it takes. Over time, as your child heals you will notice that the effects of trauma will lessen and the trauma will become a part of them. If  there are symptoms that you feel incapable of handling on your own it is always best to seek professional help. It is also important as a parent that you are supported. It is not easy to watch your child struggle and all of this can be a heavy load to carry so reach out to family and friends. If needed seek professional help for yourself to help you cope in healthy ways.

I have to say that my children have come a long way in the last eight years.  We no longer need to share a bed together. Outbursts and clingyness has been replaced with children who are getting to know who they are, are enjoying being with friends and can sleep without nightlights. I am extremely proud of each of them for all they have achieved in their recovery.  The good days happen more often than the bad now, but yes we still have struggling moments. Which is why last night when I held one of my children, as they sat on the bathroom floor and cried, I was not surprised that this was happening. I held them knowing that their pain still needs to come out and that is OK. I know that I do not have to solve this for them I just need to be there, to listen, hold them and let them know that they are safe and loved. I know that over time the impact of their trauma is lessening, one day at a time.

If you or your child needs extra help dealing with trauma I encourage you to speak to your doctor or seek out a therapist trained in trauma to help you through it. Until we meet again….

Peace,

Janet

PS. Kids Help Phone is available for any child in need. They can be reached at  1-800-668-6868

 

 

Depression. It’s a tough battle

Depression. It sucks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 350 million people worldwide battle depression. I am one of them.

I was first diagnosed with Clinical Depression back in the mid 90’s due to grief. My mother had been killed in a  car accident almost 10 years earlier and I had fallen into a deep depression. This had led to me feeling suicidal, but thankfully I found good support systems; a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist to get me through it all. I stayed on antidepressants for about five years and then, once I was feeling stable I weaned myself off the medication.

Life continued for me. I did not feel, what I call the “depression cloud”, looming over me. I got married, had three children, worked full time, bought a house, had a new vehicle so from the outside life looked pretty stable, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t the depression that was haunting me though it was that my marriage was abusive. For 15 years my ex husband abused me in various ways and in 2011 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Deep Depressive Disorder.

A PTSD diagnosis can be given after you experience anything traumatic; a car crash, an assault, combat, abuse, or watching a sudden death to name a few things. With PTSD you can experience symptoms like flashbacks of the event, intrusive memories, heightened startle response, hypervigilance, avoidance, sleep disturbances such as night terrors and yes many also battle Deep Depressive Disorder as well.

Yuck.

Yes it is just plain yucky to battle both. Myself I take medication to manage all of my symptoms, I practice self care, I have a good support system and I have done counselling to keep me on track. For the most part my symptoms are pretty stable, except as of late. Lately I have felt a heaviness in my chest and a “weight” on my shoulders. I cry more. Privately. Quietly. And I do my best to put on that smile and appear ok to the outside world. I find myself depreciating myself too….looking at those around me with their busy lives thinking that I should not bother them with how I feel. I guess I have been isolating myself.

How wrong I am to do that.

In my training as a Trauma Therapist I know that depression is a part of trauma and I know from a professional level what I am supposed to do to fight the darkness. I am not supposed to isolate myself, I am supposed to reach out to supports and I am supposed to push myself out of bed every day, write if I need too, express my feelings in a healthy way, be in the sunshine and do some physical exercise, but let me just say……

I don’t want to.

Now no need for family and friends to worry. I am not in danger. I am not suicidal. I think I have just been overwhelmed by life. Recently our family had to move off of our farm and are staying with a friend while our new home is sorted. I have also had kids with health problems and in all honesty due to the move my horse, dog and cat, which all bring me peace, are not with me right now (I love animal therapy!). All of that has made things a bit harder and has caused me to struggle with my mental health. I get that. I see that, but still the crappy feelings are there.

I know that I will soldier on. As my dad said at my recent wedding; “Boy is she ever strong!” I know that I will make it through all of this. Just for now……well for now I will be gentle with me, do what I can to care for me and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Mental Illness. What a battle. Keep soldiering on everyone.

Till we meet again,

Peace

Janet R

PS. If you are battling depression or feeling suicidal please know that you are not alone.  There is support available at the 24/7 Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link;  http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/safety-planning/  Scroll down the page it opens to download it for free.

Are you a Survivor needing  support? You can sign up for a Mentor, someone who has been there, and receive free support and guidance all via email, at :http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

I love writing for free, but with three kids it can get tight.  So if you like what I write feel free to make a donation towards my work.  Please click on this Paypal link; PayPal.Me/JanetBrownlee to make your donation. Thanks!

 

Crazy Making; An insidious form of abuse

Today I was thinking about the times my ex made me feel crazy. Often termed “Crazy Making”  it is a form of emotional abuse. Most often the abuser plays with their victims mind and self confidence by denying events that the victim knows happened, like an abusive incident where they were hit, or an abuser can go the other way and convince their victim that something did happen that didn’t. This constant attack on their victims confidence in what they know to be the truth will break them down and make them easier to control.
 
Another form of crazy making is setting up their victim to fail. I remember when I was pregnant with my third child my ex set me up constantly. I was overdue and having nightly contractions, but nothing ever progressed. My ex made the choice on many nights to stay home from his night shift job in case I did go into labour. As the days passed though, and nothing progressed, he started to yell at me prior to each shift demanding to know from me if I was going to deliver that night. It was an impossible situation to be in. Being my third baby and being overdue I could go into labour at any moment, but there was no way, without being in labour, that I could possibly know when true labour would start. Yet he demanded that I know, demanded to the point where I was in tears nightly. I felt like I was going crazy. It is amazing that these verbal assaults did not send me into labour. I am happy to say that in the end I was  induced and had a healthy baby boy. There was further crazy making behaviour while I was in labour.  My ex sat in the room and completely dismissed me doing crossword puzzles while I delivered our son. It was only when my doctor looked at him and said, “You know you can touch her” that he did so.
 
“Crazy Making” abuse messes with your sanity. It is a form of abuse that comes in many forms and it leaves you feeling “off” and you are not quite being able to put your finger on what is wrong.  This form of abuse is hard to recover from as it plays with your self confidence. I find that crazy making changes who you are and how you perceive others It creates a lot of distrust in others which I think is understandable, but that can also hold you back from healthy relationships. So how does one heal? Myself I had to undo the crazy making and see it for what it was; him trying to hurt me and control me. I had to see that before I delivered my son there was no way, without being in labour, that I could know if I was going to deliver that night.  There was nothing “right” I could do to make that situation better. I also had to look at his behaviour in the delivery room and see that this was another form of control. His dismissive behaviour was giving him control.  Everyone in the delivery room was distracted by his behaviour and focused on him, splitting away from focusing on the delivery of our baby. He made himself, or at least tried, to make himself the center of the situation and in control of everyone in the room.
 
Other forms of crazy making are;
 
Creating double standards. When creating a double standard the abuser tells their victim that they cannot do one thing, but then they do it themselves.
 
Being passive aggressive. Having your partner make you consistently late and then he or she denying that when you call them on it is a form of passive aggressive behaviour. Having them say, “Well you used to be really good at that, but now…..I don’t know.” is another form of being passive aggressive.
 
Everything is always your fault. A crazy maker will twist events so that they are never their fault and are always their victims.
 
Like any other form of abuse, crazy making is about one person wanting power and control over another. It takes time to recover from such a form of abuse. To undo the damage a person needs to relearn to trust their own judgement. To listen to their own inner voice, their gut instinct and trust what they are saying to themselves about a situation.  Having a skilled counsellor will help undo the damage.
 
Peace,
 
Janet
PS. My new husband and I are in the process of creating a Non Profit for Domestic Violence Survivors. Please read up on our campaign at https://www.uhelp.com/rhodes-to-wellness-for-dv-survivors
Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

Making our way through the muck

Tonight my middle child, my youngest daughter, made me cry. We were sitting around the supper table remembering when my youngest daughter and her brother first met my husband. We talked about their first reactions and we laughed about them. As we cleared the table my daughter said, “You know mum I remember that I wasn’t very nice to you (at that time). I feel bad about that and I am sorry how I treated you back then.” I gave her a hug and told her how she was but a young child then and she was going through a lot; her father and I had split up and he had been abusive to all of us. I told her that I bared a lot from all three of my children at that time, but I had big shoulders and took it because I knew they were hurting. We hugged and she said she was sorry and that she loved me. I am grateful for her apology.

The time period my daughter is referring to is back in 2011. She was six years old, my son was four, and my oldest daughter was six years old. It had been a turbulent time with my ex and I separating the previous year. My children saw their father on weekends. Weekends where they were still being abused (unbeknownst to me, but I had my suspicions) and I was struggling with symptoms of undiagnosed PTSD. It was a difficult time so it was natural that as young children that they would act out. There was wetting of beds, soiling of pants, and nightmares as reactions to the trauma they endured. There was also verbal back lashing, not listening to me, some name calling, along with hitting and kicking of me. All actions they had observed their father do and in their frustration, pain, and confusion they exhibited the same actions. Yes, it was a difficult time.

I think it is important to remember that with a survivor of domestic abuse they are often not only facing pain caused by their partner, but at times by their own children. It’s a double edged sword. Often the abuser will undermine the survivor’s relationship with their children. They will blame the abuse on the survivor and tell the children what a poor parent the survivor is. Often, my ex would tell my children how stupid I was in my hearing. I can only imagine what was said out of my hearing. This is one more form of abuse directed on the survivor and on the children. Abusers know that by using the children against the survivor they are able to truly break the survivor down. Often, the children are brainwashed against the survivor by the abusive parent. As a result, some children turn away from that survivor parent. It is a heartbreaking fact in domestic abuse.

I love my children. I always have and I always will. I fought hard in our legal system to gain full custody of them to protect them from further abuse. There have been many times where I have had to have “big shoulders” and bared their backlash. Backlash that often should be directed to my ex, but he is not here and I am. I take it because I know it all needs to get out in the open and that helps my children heal. It is not an easy road. I will admit that. I have cried many tears as a result. It is all worth it though when I see a smile on their face or receive a hug or cuddle telling me they love me. I know that they too are working their way through the “muck” of having lived in an abusive family. I am glad to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I saw it tonight in a simple “I am sorry.”

Peace,

Janet

Christmas Anxiety

To say that this Christmas season has been easy for me would be a lie, it hasn’t been. It is not because I don’t like Christmas either, because I love the Christmas season. I love celebrating the birth of Christ, all the lights, the carols and time with family and friends. It is a lovely time of year. So why has it not been easy for me? Anxiety.

Anxiety is a disorder that cripples many. I am one of them. I was diagnosed with PTSD back in 2011 and with PTSD comes anxiety. A lot of the time I am able to cope with it. I know all the breathing exercises to calm myself. I know how to do positive self talk. In fact I am a person who often helps others with their anxiety so you would think I have this all cased wouldn’t you? Well I don’t. I have shed tears in my vehicle after shopping in a mall. I have suffered a full out anxiety attack while decorating our Christmas tree and I have had moments where I just crawl under the blankets and seek silence. To be blunt it sucks.

I know why I am suffering. Christmas was always a time when my ex husband was more abusive. He would yell more and would make sure I knew what a chore it was to shop for me. Everyone else’s gifts would be planned out weeks in advance whereas mine would be last minute. He would make sure I knew that he was only buying me something because it would look bad in front of everyone else if he did not. He crushed my self worth every Christmas. I understand that those memories go deep so of course when December rolls around I am not surprised if I am triggered and on edge.

What am I doing to cope? Well I am happy to say I was remarried this last fall to a wonderful man who loves me deeply. He has been my rock during this anxiety ridden time. He holds me when I cry or when my whole being is shaking with anxiety. We talk about what I am feeling or sometimes we just sit in silence. I also pray. I am a strong Christian believer so I have had many “chats” with God praying for peace and strength and I am also looking for the positives in every day, even if it is a small thing like going out for a walk on our farm in the snow and sunshine.

If you are also struggling this Christmas my thoughts are with you. Please know that you are not alone. I too am taking it all one moment at a time. Breathe and take care of you. Merry Christmas.

 

Janet

 

The Day I went on Trial

Just over two years ago I went on trial for my ex sexually assaulting me continually in the last 9 months of our marriage.  Yes I was on trial, or at least that is how it played out in Court.  My words and my actions were scrutinized under a microscope for all to see while my ex sat there.

The last nine months of my marriage were the worst.  I had stood up to my abusive ex and told him he was no longer welcome in our marriage bed, that our marriage was over. He said he had no place to go so he moved into our family room in the basement. It was then that I kept catching in him, in his underwear, in my youngest daughters bed.  My gut told me that this was beyond wrong so with everything in me I stood up to him and told him again, No More! No more sleeping in our daughters bed. He exploded and started yelling at me. I shook like a leaf inside, but held my ground on the outside.  I looked him firmly in the eyes and said, “No More.”

The next day he came up to my room in the early morning hours and raped me. This continued weekly over the next nine months. I lived in terror and was barely coping on the inside, but on the outside I did my best to still be a mom, go to work and quietly figure out how I was going to get out of this marriage safely.  I led a double life. In front of my ex I was complacent, unless I saw him hurt one of our children, then something would break in me and I would become so protective, telling him to go away, to leave us alone, but he wouldn’t leave. So I continued to play the good wife on the outside, making supper, getting kids to daycare and going to my job. I could no longer sleep and I could no longer eat. I lost so much weight. Soon there was nothing left of me.

Then one night it was over.  He admitted to the rapes.  He stood at the sink doing the dishes before his aunt and uncle came over.  He admitted that he knew exactly what he was doing to me, that he knew he was hurting me.  Up until that point, I believe to protect my own sanity, I had somehow believed that he did not know what he was doing, that he was “out of control” with his actions and that he really did not mean to hurt me this way.  That night though, that night that bubble burst and I started to scream blood curdling screams that it was over. All over. The next day he moved out.

After he left I pushed all he had done way down deep inside of me.  I had to focus on my kids. I had to help them heal. So I took them to counselling appointments, I met with teachers and I just kept going.  My pain, to me, was irrelevant.  I would deal with it someday but today was not the day.

I lived that way for two years.  I even did my own one on one counselling and went to group therapy but I could not get the words out of my mouth that he had raped me over and over.  Then one day I did, near the end of a group therapy session, I looked at the ceiling, then at the floor, but not at anyone’s face and I shared that my ex had raped me many times.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.  The pain was just too much. The group listened and was supportive and they encouraged me to go forward to the Police.  I let that idea sit with me.  I had been through the Court system before when he physically assaulted myself and our toddler son. Could I handle going through that again? This would be so much more personal? Could I do it? Then one day a calm came over me and I knew that I had to come forward.  So I did and my ex was arrested.

The next few years involved Court delays, done by my ex, but eventually we did have a hearing.  I testified for six hours.  I was so exhausted, but overall it went ok.  The Defense tried to trip me up, but I stayed on course. I was prepared for the fact that they would play games and I held my head high.  The Defence even had my ex sit in a seat where I had to walk past him to get to the stand.  I actually had to step over his feet and I knew this was done just to try and intimidate me.  I did not let this falter me and I told the truth of what happened.  Per the Judge there was enough evidence to go to Trial. A date was set and a year later the Trial began.

I arrived at the Court House with my now husband.  We went through security and then saw on the notice boards that our Court room was upstairs.  The Defense had decided to go with a Jury Trial. I was warned ahead of time that the Court House would be busy with many people being called to possibly be on the Jury.  We came up the stairs and across the room I saw him; my ex, his mother and another woman whom I assumed (and was later confirmed) was his girlfriend.  There were at least 30-40 people waiting to go through Jury selection.  I found my Victims Services Worker and was shown into a room. The room had windows to the hallway. As everyone was called into the Court room his girlfriend walked by and glared at me. I held her gaze, I had no intention to be intimidated when I knew I was telling the truth.  I waited in the small room, as a witness to the crime I was not allowed to be in the room when Jury selection was going on, but he being the one on trial had the right to be there for every process.

It did not take long and soon a Jury was chosen.  I was told that I would be called in soon. I took a deep breath and when I was called I walked into the Court room with my head held high.  Again I had to walk right past him, this time he was in a separate box so there was no stepping over feet, but he was right there as I walked past.  I also walked right past his mother and his girlfriend. My support was seated on the other side of the Court room.  The Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor both stood at their respective tables. Soon we all rose and the Judge came in.  He then had the Jury stand.  I looked at all of them. Soon the Jury was dismissed and I was too.

Soon I was called back into the Court room and again I had to walk past my ex.  As I got up on the stand I noticed he was not wearing his false teeth and he was slouching as he sat, looking very meek and sad.  Very different from who he really is. He is really over 6ft and broad shoulders.  I assumed this meek posture was a tactic suggested by the Defense to make him look weaker to the Jury rather than the predator I knew he could be.  I wanted to scream that his appearance was a lie, that this was all just part of the game to get him off on the charges! Could I say that? I was really only there to answer questions, correct?

I was on the stand for two days. First the Prosecutor questioned me.  He had slightly prepared me for his questions.  I calmly relayed what had happened the first time he raped me.  That he had come running up the stairs in early morning, that I thought he was going out on a call as a First Responder because he sounded to be in such a rush.  Instead though he came running into our room, locked the door, lay on top of me and forced himself on me.  I told how I couldn’t scream because I was in so much shock that this was actually happening.  My own husband, the one who was to protect me was hurting me in the one of the worst ways possible. I went numb. When it was over he sat on the end of the bed and called me horrible names, like Whore, Bitch and Slut.  Again I was in too much shock to move or speak.  Then I heard our toddler son get up across the hall and that seemed to snap me back to reality.  I did not want my children to know what had happened, I wanted everything to be as normal as possible.  I think there was a huge amount of disbelief from me that this had actually happened.  Instead, like so many who go into shock I did something random and normal, I got up and made breakfast for my children.  Doing any different would have shattered me at that moment.

Then it was the Defenses turn.  He reviewed the details with me and I stayed alert to the fact I knew he would try to trip me up. I was determined to not let that happen.  He asked me what I was wearing when my ex entered the bedroom.  I knew that what I was wearing had absolutely nothing to do with why he raped me so I responded that he was wearing only his underwear.  Since him raping me happened more than once in the early hours he questioned me over and over why I did not lock the bedroom door.  I explained that I was afraid of him and so were my children and I was not going to lock my children out of my room which was a safe place for them.  I took the risk of being hurt again, but I wanted to be able to protect my children if they needed me. That wasn’t enough though, over and over the Defense asked me why I did not lock the bedroom door.  It was clear victim blaming, that somehow I was at fault for him raping me because I did not lock the bedroom door.  I was grilled as to why it took me two years to report the rapes.  That I must be making it up because if it had really happened then I would have sought help right away.  Again victim blaming with no explanation on how trauma works, given to the Jury.  In fact the Prosecutor did not bring any other witnesses forward.  No Professionals to explain how a rape Survivor can react, no education and none of the Professionals that had been treating me. I did my best to explain trauma, that sometimes something is so painful that we push it away to cope and when our whole being believes we are strong enough to deal with it we will talk about it.  I explained how the first two years were just about getting my kids through each day. Somehow that was not enough.  The Defense twisted things and said I waited two years because I was in the middle of Family Law proceedings trying to gain sole custody of my kids.  That I went to the Police about these made up assaults to make it that my ex would have no access to the kids while these charges were sorted out.  In reality I came forward when I was ready having no idea ahead of time how that would affect his visitation. Again though I was spun to be a vindictive ex wife to the Jury.  Then the Defense brought forth their knowledge of my blogs and said I only wrote it to continue to be a victim. The Defense even tried finishing his questioning by saying “I am Janet, I am victim hear me Roar!” I responded, “No I am Janet, I am a Survivor!”

I was grilled about everything I had done or said since my ex and I separated.  My character was put on trial. Unfortunately I later learned that this is very common in Sexual Assault Trials, the victim is put on trial for what they did and the perpetrator is barely looked at. It was that case as well. When it was time for my ex to go on the stand he was on it for about 10 minutes. He was asked what our marriage was like.  He responded that our marriage was that “what Janet wanted Janet got”.  Up to that point I had had my head down so that I did not have to look at him, but when he said that my head shot up and we locked eyes for just a moment.  I looked at him with a look telling him that I knew he was lying.  That our marriage was anything but that.  That there had been so many times I wanted to socialize with friends, have people over or go out with him, but there was always an excuse, a reason why I had to stay home.   That I was not allowed to go out anywhere, that I was isolated. He knew he was lying too because when we locked eyes he quickly looked to the ground in defeat. He was maybe asked 5 questions, whereas I was on the stand for two days. Does that seem right? He was the one who committed the crimes yet he was barely examined.

There are so many short falls in our Court System.  I quickly learned that it is a Legal System to carry out laws, not a Justice System.  There was no Justice in what I went through. Sadly this is the case for so many in a Sexual Assault Trial. I felt completely unprepared for what was going to happen to me in that Court Room. The only warning that the Prosecutor gave me was that the Defence may not be nice, but it is not personal, they are just there to do a job. I was not prepared for the trauma the Defence would cause with their insinuations that I was the abusive one and that I was a liar. I wasn’t prepared for the Defence to laugh to themselves, almost patting themselves on the back for their latest dig to me, when their back was turned to the jury. I was prepared for the Judge to watch all of this and say nothing. I was prepared to feel abandoned by our Legal System.

In the end the verdict came back as “Not Guilty”. The Judge said, as I cried, that it was not a case where I was not believed, but that there was just not enough evidence. Being it was a sexual assault it was a “He said, She said” case given there were no witnesses.

That night I had a complete breakdown. My husband and I went to a lounge to debrief. I tried to relax, but could not. After we left my husband had to stop in at a Convenience Store. I sat in our car and waited listening to music. It was then that I cracked; I cranked the music and sobbed uncontrollably. All of the pain came out, the betrayal that I felt by the Courts and by his family for not standing by me when I told the truth. Truth about the long time abuse in our home. Things that they saw or heard. I was crushed.

The trial is still hard to think about, but it no longer weighs on me like it did. There are times where intimacy still frightens me, but I have a loving husband now who is patient and kind. And sometimes I still sleep at night with a pile of clothes on just to feel safe and I lay in the fetal position with my arms crossed across my chest just to “protect” myself. It is what I need to do to get through the tough moments.

I hope, that in time, our Justice system will change in regard to Sexual Assaults. The victim should never be the one on trial. Their actions pre and post a rape should not be used as evidence as to whether the assault took place. The perpetrators actions are the ones that need to be scrutinized. They need to be the ones being questioned for two days, not for five minutes. Only then, I think, will we start to see more appropriate verdicts in sexual assaults trials. Until then my heart goes out to every sexual assault victim.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

 

Anxiety, it’s a Nasty Thing

Anxiety, it’s a nasty thing. Today I woke with an anxiety attack. My heart was pounding, I felt shaky and on edge. To make matters worse it was also really windy out and I could hear something tapping against the house.

Tap

Tap

Tap

With each tap I felt myself jumping out of my skin. What was that? Was it a person? Was someone going to hurt me? I could no longer sleep. I pulled myself out of bed and went to find the noise.

Tap

Tap

Tap

My heart kept pounding and my arms felt weak. I zeroed in on the noise. It was outside my kitchen window. I made my way with shaky legs to the window and looked out. There I saw a wind ornament that hung off the edge of the garage, spinning in the wind. It had spun it’s way over next to the house and was hitting the side of it.

Tap

Tap

Tap

I did what I know I was supposed to do. I took a slow, deep breath, in through my nose and out through mouth and did my best to try and calm myself. I told myself that I was safe and that no one was coming to get me; it was just an out of control wind ornament.

Anxiety can be a paralyzing disorder. Anxiety is a worry about future events. In extreme cases some people are terrified to leave their homes or even their bedrooms because the anxiety has them believing something catastrophic will happen. Those with anxiety have usually, if not always, gone through some form of trauma, something that took them completely way out of their comfort zone and caused them pain whether physical or emotional. Myself, I was in an abusive marriage for 15 years. The constant trauma from abuse left me with a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and anxiety is a part of that disorder. There was a time when I was very sick with my PTSD symptoms and leaving my house or answering the phone was a terrifying and overwhelming thought. I saw even the most loved people in my life as a threat, as someone who could hurt me. To me it made sense, the man I had loved and married had tortured me through various forms of abuse for over a decade. If I could not trust him how could I possibly trust the clerk at the grocery store?

To someone who is not battling the anxiety giant my behaviour today would seem completely irrational. I get that and yes I do feel a bit crazy when I am battling anxiety. On a logical level, I know the grocery store clerk is not going to hit me and I know that if I call a trusted family member they are not going to scream at me and call me names, but my nervous system does not get that. It is on high alert and passes that alertness on to me through anxiety so that I stay on edge and over aware. It is a terrible cycle to be caught in. Many lose relationships, jobs or suffer in their school attendance all due to the fear anxiety causes.

The fear. Fear is a reaction to current events and it is big when it hits with anxiety, but is it rational? No, not really.  My first thought when I heard the tapping was that someone was outside about to hurt me not that it was windy and something must be hitting the house as a result. That was pretty irrational of me. I believe to combat those irrational thoughts one needs to understand where anxiety with PTSD comes from. We all have the limbic system in our brain. It is our animal brain and it functions the “fight or flight” mode we all go into when danger strikes. We hear strange noises in the garage at night, we freeze for a moment and listen, the hairs go up on the back of our neck and our body starts to pump extra blood to our limps preparing us to either flee the danger quickly or to fight it. This is a great system built in us that protects us. With PTSD anxiety, we are having that adrenaline pump through us when it is not needed. Our mind perceives a threat and thinks it needs to go into the fight or flight mode based on past experiences.

So how do you combat this anxiety?

It might sound silly, but breathing exercises help. So do grounding exercises. These are two things that focus our brain on the present, what is right in front of us. It breaks the anxious thought cycle. Talking to a friend or a trained third party helps. Doing something creative can be a good release or for some they get out for a walk and burn off some of that anxious energy. It takes time and being very aware of whom you are to combat anxiety, but I do believe it can be done.

Anxiety no longer rules my life. I can go to the grocery store now with no anxiety. Making and receiving phone calls has become easier, but I still do have tough moments like I did today. It is in those moments that I do some positive self-talk and tell myself that I am safe and to just breathe. I might make a cup of tea or like today it was a mug of hot chocolate, hug my new husband and just be safe and calm. Over time my anxiety drifts away and I feel like myself again. It has taken a lot of work; time with a counsellor, some medication and self-exploration to get where I am today. I am not cured, but I am getting there. You can too. Until we meet again…..

Peace,

Janet

Deep Breathing Exercise

Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.

Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.

Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

Grounding Exercise

The “54321 game” is a common sensory awareness grounding exercise that many find a helpful tool to relax or get through difficult moments.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Describe five things you see in the room.
  2. Name four things you can feel (“my feet on the floor” or “the air in my nose”)
  3. Name three things you hear right now (“traffic outside)
  4. Name two things you can smell right now (or two smells you like)
  5. Name one good things about yourself

You should feel calmer and more at ease by the end of the exercise. Repeat the five steps more than once if needed.

-Dr. Stephanie Cordes, ND

Are you always going to pick an abuser?

As a newly remarried woman I have definitely had this question cross my mind; just because my first marriage was abusive does that mean my second one will be too? It’s a heavy question and an important question for anyone to ask, especially if they have already been in an abusive relationship.

Abusive relationships are usually classified as co dependent relationships. Co dependency is defined as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. They are usually with someone who has a drug addiction, alcohol problem, mental health issues or a gambling addiction to name a few. Co dependent relationships are not healthy because you find yourself dependent on this unhealthy person for approval. My first marriage was a co dependent relationship. Everything revolved around him and his needs and I was only happy if he was happy. I lost myself.

When I met my present husband I know that others around me worried that maybe I had picked another abusive man. Could they trust my judgment? Had I healed enough to recognize when I was being abused  and would I be strong enough to walk away if I was. Those around me “held their breath” for awhile.

I held my breath too. Would I be blind to the abuse if it happened again? Was I destined to only pick abusers? I no longer trusted my judgement after years of seeing my ex be nice in public and abusive behind closed doors. I found I had to ask myself, “did I want to be alone or should I take a deep breath and trust this new man in my life?” I decided to trust. It was not easy, but I am glad I put myself out there and trusted him and myself. It was a huge step forward for me.

I am happy to report that my second marriage is not abusive. We communicate well, we respect each others feelings and I do not have that “knot of dread” in my stomach that I had in my first marriage; walking on eggshells waiting for the abuse to happen. Instead I am calm and I feel safe. I will tell you though that we have analyzed our relationship to death to make sure we are not abusing each other. I have PTSD from the abuse in my first marriage so there are times I get triggered by a word or a gesture he does. I end up reacting how I wished I had in my first marriage. I get angry.  It’s not fair to anyone, not myself, my husband or the kids if they see it. We are quick though, once I am grounded, to explain what has happened, to talk about it and I apologize. We work through it. That would not happen in an abusive relationship.  Sometimes he gets triggered by me. He was abused in his childhood and was in an emotionally abusive first marriage so he too has his demons. His reaction is to yell. Again we have recognized that and we talk through it and he takes responsibility. Abusers never take responsibility. In fact they blame everyone else, especially their victim and they never talk about their feelings or want to hear about yours.   We have also recently made a rule in our house that there is no yelling and if you do yell you get to go outside and run/walk a lap around our farm yard to cool off. This is working well. This is not abuse. This is two people who came from abuse who are recognizing their triggers and working around them. Our younger kids are understanding this as well.

Perhaps it is good to point out what is an abusive relationship in case you are questioning your relationship. Some key signs of an abusive relationship are;

1. Your partner ignores and minimizes your feelings.

2. Constantly criticizing, insulting and calling you names.

3. Humiliating you in public and/or private.

4. Refusing to help you when you are sick or hurt.

5. Controlling all the money or creating debts in your name.

6. Isolating you from your family or friends.

7. Controlling where you are and what you do.

8. Checking up on you constantly.

9. Blaming you for the abuse that happens.

10. Playing mind games.

11. Threatening to hurt you, take your children, harm your family or hurt you with a weapon.

12. Pushing, shoving, throwing objects at you.

13. Hitting, choking, punching, biting, slapping or kicking you.

14. Forcing you to have sex or making you do something sexual you are not comfortable with.

If you are experiencing any of these in your relationship I urge you to tell someone and start building your support system. I know that it is scary to speak up but you do deserve a life free of abuse. No one has the right to abuse you. No one.

My word of advice; if you are in a relationship after being abused and you wonder, will I be abused again? Take a look at the above list. Is that happening? There will be arguments in your relationship, that is normal, but is there violence? Also listen to you inner voice, your gut instinct. What is it saying? You know best what type of relationship you are in, listen to that voice. Trust yourself.

There is a long road of recovery following any abusive relationship. I am sure my husband and I will battle our past relationships for some time to come, but the important thing is we do not give up. We are committed to work through each hurdle, to apologize, to listen, to respect each other and above all else to love each other. I am here to say it is possible to have a healthy relationship following abuse. I am grateful for the opportunity to have one.

If you are being abused please know there is help available. If needed you can always call 911 or your local police department. In the USA you can also call the National Domestic Hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233 (SAFE) for support. In Canada you can find a local hotline number by looking through the Hot Peach Pages at http://www.hotpeachpages.net/canada or Internationally at http://www.hotpeachpages.net

Be safe and be well,

Janet

Gender Based Violence

Sharing my sisters blog posted yesterday when we remembered the Montreal Massacre and the 14 women who were murdered for being women.

Faith from the Edges

Today here in Canada is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is to remember the 14 women who were murdered for just being women at a university in Montreal on December 6, 1989. They were all engineering students and the man who killed them said that feminists had taken his life away. It is one of the biggest massacres that has ever happened in Canada. It started a conversation here about violence against women and about gun violence, it is a conversation that we are still having.

In 2009 I was asked to preach at Christ Church Cathedral for the 20th anniversary of this day. I recently found my sermon and thought that it was worth sharing here. I hope that it touches you, I hope that you are pushed to action. If you want to find out how domestic violence has affected…

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Grooming – What is it in an abusive relationship?

Grooming, for many it is a normal word, something we do to a pet. It has two definitions in the dictionary; 1. look after the coat of (a horse, dog, or other animal) by brushing and cleaning it 2. prepare or train (someone) for a particular purpose or activity. In an abusive relationship grooming is the second definition and it is a horrible thing. The abuser trains or prepares their victim for further abuse. It is done so subtly that often the victim does not even realize it is happening, nor do those around them.
Grooming is done to lower the child’s, and often the families’, inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse. I will give you an example. A husband and wife have a few children, one is a daughter. She is the father’s favourite, “daddy’s little girl.” They do everything together and often it is just the two of them on outings. The mother is often left at home or left out of activities. The father says its because she has to look after the other kids, but he also never goes out with his wife. Others start to whisper that he treats his daughter more like his wife than he does his wife. Or another father starts watching porn just down the hall from his daughters bedroom and rarely hides what is on the screen if she walks by. Or another starts to cuddle and sleep with his daughter at night, and says he was just reading her books and fell asleep; night after night. Subtly and slowly these men are preparing their daughters for sexual abuse. Getting them so used to the idea sexual touching that it seems normal when it happens, or at least that is what they are hoping. It’s not always fathers and daughters, sometimes it is step-parents, uncles, aunts, babysitters, anyone in a position of trust.
Once the abuse is exposed there is shock felt by those around the victim. Adults ask, “How did I not see it?” If it was a father or stepfather the mother thinks, “I must be a terrible mother not to see it, how did this happen?” It happened because abusers are manipulative. Master manipulators who are playing a giant game of chess. Each person around them is game piece being moved carefully and craftily around the board. So craftily that their opponent does not see that they are about to lose their king until it is too late.
Sexual abuse is devastating to all involved, especially the victim. Many victims turn to drugs, sexual promiscuity and struggle in school or at work. I believe sexual abuse to be the most pervasive form of abuse and it devastates all involved. There can be healing though. The shattered pieces can be picked up and the power taken back from the abuser.  It takes counselling and a proper support system for the victim and those close to them, also no contact with the abuser is best. It also takes forgiveness. I am not saying one has to forgive their abuser, that is a very personal decision. I believe those around the victim have to forgive themselves that they did not see what was happening around them. Again, abusers are master manipulators and will only let you see what they want you to see.
If you are being sexually abused, please tell someone you trust. I know it is not easy and you may feel shame or even guilt that this has happened. Please know that none of this is your fault. There is help available. You are not alone. If you suspect that someone is being sexual abused please follow your instinct and tell someone, report it. I know that reporting this, especially if it involves family is scary, but for the victims sake it needs to be done. By law, sexual abuse is against the law. We need to stand up and care for the victims.
If you are a child in need of support you can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 for further support.
Until we meet again……

Peace,

Janet